Amidst heated debate on air pollution in national capital New Delhi and whether fire-crackers could be blamed for it, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board have revealed alarming levels of pollution in Chennai on Diwali night itself. A cloud of smog has descended over the city which has abundantly reduced the visibility in the southern major city.
The PM10 levels at Sowcarpet in north Chennai for instance touched 777, compared to 180 last year – four times the level. At Triplicane near the Marina, it was 597, compared to 200 last year, a three fold rise. A senior officer said, “Rise in sparklers and a unfavourable weather led to the spike. It was not a hot day, nor was it windy and hence there was no dispersion of pollutants into upper atmosphere and all descended”. Dr Sudhakar, Joint Director, C P R Environment Education Centre, says, “Use of sparklers at night and these chemicals produce lots of smoke and hence the alarming spike.” Air pollution has risen though the cracker sale dropped by 40 per cent. Many Chennaites are now demanding a ban on crackers or at least community cracker celebrations. Kevin Franklin a student says, “It’s a do or die situation, I think we’ve to ban crackers”. Shivani Arora, a Chennai resident, suggests, “Like the US they can permit only common fireworks at designated places, as they do for their July 4th. This would reduce pollution during Diwali.” Akil Thiyagarajan, a school student, has a different take. “I think fire crackers have to be burst.”
He adds, “Lots of people in Sivakasi get jobs and they have to be paid.” Many see this spike as a wake up call to Chennai for damage control before air pollution levels turns irreparable like Delhi.